Robert Beksinski’s review published on Letterboxd:
Ugetsu is based partially from a classic Japanese folklore literature "Tales of Moonlight and Rain" by author Ueda Akinari. Upon seeing the film again I really want to venture out and find this collection of stories. Mizoguchi's film brilliantly and flawlessly mixes Japanese folklore and morality tales of war, greed, and consequence into an unforgettable film experience.
Japanese folklore and culture have always been a huge fascination for me. Ever since I begun developing a love for cinema, I had noticed my draw was mostly towards Japanese films and films by Ingmar Bergman. There is just something about the films from Japan, either that or it's a stated fact that Japan is just simply a cinematic prosperous country. As evidence towards that statement, you could just name how many of the greatest directors to ever hold a camera were from Japan, and see what your total would be.
Ugetsu is no exception and it was originally my first film watched by Kenji Mizoguchi. On my first viewing I knew I really liked the film and technically could see how it was considered a masterwork, but ultimately I felt disappointed for the sheer fact that I alone could not agree with the statement. I assume my expectations were too high. Over time and many movies later I kept finding myself thinking back on Ugetsu (this is the mark of a great film). Slowly as it processed in my mind over months of time, I began to realize what a great film it was. Thus, here I am, ecstatic to give it a re-watch and see if the long contemplation on the film pays off, and it did. It only took two viewings almost a year or maybe more in between each other, before I finally considered this to be a absolute masterpiece.
The film's core is heartbreaking, the morality tale on display is simple and one could see the downward spiral that the actions of the main characters would take them. However, it was still difficult to watch and despite Genjuro and Tobei falling into the traps of greed and desire, there is still much sympathy for them. The end of the film, this second time around, really gripped me emotionally and I could not help but shed tears for Genjuro. It is that impact of a person who makes mistakes like we all do, but sometimes at their worst, they cause permanent consequences and having to deal with the decisions we made, and the regret we have to live with. The way Mizoguchi portrays this on screen is something of extreme power.
It seems either way, if a person likes or dislikes this film everyone agrees on one aspect and I wanted to add that in here too, that the cinematography is some of the best black and white in display on film that ever existed. I can sincerely guarantee you on that. Ugetsu is one of my favorite films of all time and it receives the top score from me.